Rebecca Lurie – CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies

Hi, I’m Rebecca Lurie, born and raised in New York City, where I work at the City University of New York’s School of Labor and Urban Studies. I helped found the Community and Worker Ownership Project here and have a deep history of working closely with unions. My first career as a union carpenter taught me valuable lessons about fostering healthy economic development through collective action. Unions have historically unified workers across sectors, raising the standard and enabling a unified voice across multiple employers.

In today’s platform economy, characterized by individualized gig work, there’s a crucial need to bring workers together. This can either mimic traditional union structures or integrate directly with them to advocate for better employment practices. Cooperatives play a unique role in this landscape by enhancing democracy and participation. True democracy in co-ops allows every member to be heard, which is particularly important in addressing generations of oppression and enabling individuals to engage fully at work.

Cooperativism not only supports individual voice but also strengthens collective bargaining power across industries. This was evident in Chicago, where teachers struck not just for better wages and benefits, but for improved classroom conditions—demonstrating a broader commitment to community welfare.

In cooperative economics, two principles are paramount: true democracy and transparency. This requires a clear understanding of the cooperative’s structure and ensures that every member has a voice. These principles are both ancient, as timeless methods of communal problem-solving, and innovative when applied to modern technology and global communication. This dual nature of cooperatives offers a powerful framework for building equitable and democratic workplaces.